Hezbollah to Lebanese Patriarch Rai: No to ‘Israeli Agents’ Among Us
Hezbollah MP Ali Meqdad on Saturday criticized Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai’s visit to Israel to meet Pope Francis last week and speak with Lebanese Christian exiles who fled to the Jewish State in 2000, saying “we do not want agents among us,” according to Lebanon’s The Daily Star at the weekend.
After Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon on May 25, 2000, dozens of families fled to Israel out of fear of retribution from Hezbollah. Some have returned and received light sentences while others remain in Israel. Others immigrated further abroad.
During Rai’s meeting with Lebanese immigrants in the northern Israeli village of Kufr Birim, across from the Lebanon border, the patriarch said that he was working with authorities to facilitate their return. Meanwhile, other reports cited by the newspaper said that the exiles said they were satisfied with their new Israeli nationalities.
Speaking at a ceremony in Baalbek, East Lebanon, Meqdad said, “There is an issue that really irked me. Some people went to occupied Palestine to convince [Israeli] agents who withdrew with the Israeli enemy in 2000 to come back to Lebanon, and their response was that they have become Israeli citizens now and do not want either the Lebanese or Arab identity.”
“The resistance was very careful after liberation and it did not take revenge or hold any of the agents or their families accountable but left things up to the judiciary,” he said.
“We tell those who are preparing a draft law or a proposal to bring back those agents who betrayed the country … We do not want Israeli agents among us here in Lebanon,” Meqdad said, referring to former members of the South Lebanese Army, a militia that worked with Israel in south Lebanon.
“They are not even proud of their Lebanese citizenship and we are not proud to call them Lebanese,” Meqdad said.
Although Lebanon bans citizens from traveling to Israel, religious figures have immunity. Rai was the first Lebanese religious leader to visit the Jewish State despite the formal state of war that exists between the two countries.